An award-winning poet’s “beautifully written” (The Seattle Times) portrait of an American family and his own coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s in the wake of his father’s suicide. This memoir “belongs on the special shelves we keep for the books we cannot quite forget” (George Hodgman).
The fifth of eight children, Chris Forhan was born into a family of secrets. He and his siblings learned, without being told, that certain thoughts and feelings were not to be shared. On the evenings his father didn’t come home, the rest of the family would eat dinner without him, his whereabouts unknown, his absence pronounced but unspoken. And on a cold night just before Christmas 1973, long after dinner, the rest of the family asleep, Forhan’s father killed himself in the carport.
Forty years later, Forhan “excavates both his lost father and a lost era in American history” (Bookpage). At the heart of this “fiercely honest” (Nick Flynn) investigation is Forhan’s father, a man whose crisp suits and gelled hair belied a darkness he could not control, a man whose striking dichotomy embodied the ethos of an era. Weaving together the lives of his ancestors, his parents, and his own coming of age in the 60s and 70s, Forhan paints an “achingly beautiful” (Buffalo News) portrait of a family “in the tradition of Geoffrey Wolff” (Booklist).
“Poignant…affecting…Forhan describes his family’s healing and acceptance with warmth, humor, and an admirable lack of bitterness” (Kirkus Reviews). A family history, an investigation into a death, and a stirring portrait of an Irish Catholic childhood, all set against a backdrop of America from the Great Depression to the Ramones, My Father Before Me is “an exquisite example of the power of honesty” (Jeannette Walls), “a wonderfully engrossing book…essential for all parents and children, that is, all people” (Library Journal, starred review).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We were awed by the sorrow and beauty of Chris Forhan’s memoir, which delves into his genealogy and his father’s suicide. Forhan, an established poet, has a talent for creating scenes that are full of life and describing emotions in fresh, startling ways. His desire to understand his ancestors and how their lives have impacted his own took us on a riveting and moving ride.
A father's suicide prompts his son to break the silences in his family's history in this luminous memoir. Pushcart Prize winning poet Forhan (Black Leapt In) was 13 in 1973 when his father committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and eight children but no suicide note. Forhan pieces together the traumatic childhoods of his parents, both of whom were abandoned by their fathers and grew up impoverished and insecure in the Great Depression; the experience, he conjectures, pushed his father into a taciturn, emotionally repressed, career-oriented style of manhood that starved his soul and prevented him from getting appropriate care for his scarred psyche. Much of the book is Forhan's vivid recreation of his suburban Seattle childhood, rich in details of kid culture; the small humiliations experienced by a reserved, inward boy; and the wracking tensions he felt from his parents' marriage. He also tells of his feckless adolescence and attempt at a career in broadcast journalism before becoming a poet. Forhan's characterization of his father's plight as an inability to talk about feelings sometimes feels strained his father clearly suffered from a serious mental illness but he movingly conveys the quiet, painful enigmas that people can pose to their families.